Monday, June 22, 2020

Saturday felt like our biggest test in embracing this calendar-prescribed madness. Fifteen celebrations and over 4,400 words in the article left little time for much else, apart from going for doughnuts and watching the new Spike Lee joint (which is outstanding). Yesterday we were faced with another dozen potential celebrations – more if we felt like incorporating a few national month or week parties. Which we did not. In fact, even tackling that twelve was highly unlikely. A guy’s gotta live. Besides, yesterday was a day meant for my recreation. It was, after all…

Father’s Day

My children ensured this would be a very efficient holiday. We had completed celebrating it before noon, thanks to their phone calls arriving in quick succession in the morning. Jodie called her dad, and with that we were done.

The Catholics have been celebrating fathers since the middle ages, though they did it on Saint Joseph’s Day in March. Mother’s Day came first in our culture, but by 1910 Father’s Day was a regular occurrence. But that’s just here – fathers are honoured in different ways on different dates by cultures across the planet. And some of the traditions can be a bit more interesting than a phone call or a hastily-wrapped ugly tie.

In Mozambique they celebrate Father’s Day pretty much every Friday, which I think is just grand. In Indonesia they pay a lot more attention to Mother’s Day (December 22), since Father’s Day wasn’t even a thing until 2006. In Kazakhstan they meld it with the day to celebrate the creation of their armed forces, so that dulls the party a little bit. In Thailand, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day land on the birthdays of the king and queen, and the celebrations lean more towards honouring those two individuals than parents in general. In France, Father’s Day was introduced by Flaminaire, a lighter manufacturer, in 1949. Their mission? Sell more lighters.

Germany gets it right. They align their Father’s Day with Ascension, which takes place on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter. This is also a mandatory day off in Germany, so dads get a real treat by getting to skip work. Also, it’s tradition to drink heavily on this day, so that’s another bonus.

All I wanted for yesterday was a great brunch and phone calls from my kids. The family delivered. Even in a sea of celebrations, this one managed to stand out as extra-special.

National Peaches ‘n Cream Day

There is no great history to National Peaches ‘n Cream Day, nor is there any great history to the dish itself. Someone bit into a peach and thought, “Hey, this would go well with cream!” And just like that, the face of dessert was forever altered. Likewise, someone who enjoyed this treat felt it should get its own day.

As I’ve stated before, some of our celebrations don’t lend themselves as well to the article format, unless I have a hankering for rambling on ad nauseum, just to fill space. Fortunately for my readers, I get that urge quite often. Isn’t that wonderful?

All I’ll say about this day is that we faced two options on how to celebrate it. Option one: slice up some peaches, pop ‘em in a bowl, then glob some whipped cream overtop to create the simplest dessert recipe we’d use all year. Option two: follow this recipe, which involves cooking a simple syrup, then coating the peaches and letting them bake, followed by drizzling some heavy cream overtop. Doesn’t that sound far more appealing?

That’s what we did. And it failed completely. In making the simple syrup the sugar and water began to caramelize, leading to it flopping onto the peaches in an ugly clump. Putting it in the oven only made it harden. So, we tossed out the caramelized sludge, and just spritzed some whipped cream on the peaches instead. That worked.

National Day of the Gong

This one we came very close to skipping entirely, as we have precisely zero gongs on the premises with which to celebrate it. I had planned an outing to a nearby musical instrument shop, where we could each take a turn smashing a gong triumphantly – either with the staff’s permission or in the short window before they asked us to leave. But alas, this was another COVID-cancelled celebration.

But then I read a bit deeper into the gong, and felt there was something to learn here. How much do we know about gongs anyway? We know they are of Chinese origin, that Nick Mason had one in his Pink Floyd drum kit, and that Marc Bolan and T-Rex would like us to bang upon one whilst trying to figure out what the hell a hubcap diamond-star halo is.

Did you know there’s such a thing as a nipple gong? Not as kinky as it sounds, it’s a gong with a raised center “nipple”, allowing you to make two distinctive noises upon it. But wait, things get even more curious when we dive into what gongs have been used for in the past. Any shipping vessel over 100 meters long must carry a gong on board, as well as bells and a whistle. When they’re anchored they ring a bell at the bow then smash the gong at the stern to give other vessels an idea of their length.

Before sirens existed, emergency vehicles were known to carry gongs on board to tell people in a dramatic way to move aside. Railcars still use gongs for signalling where whistles and horns aren’t allowed. Boxing arenas will still use a gong to start and end rounds. Some theatres make use of gongs (or electronic gong sounds now) to let people know when intermission is over.

And here I thought they were just for making trippy, psychedelic music.

National Arizona Day

The Grand Canyon State is our next stop in our weekly culinary tour around America. The bad news here is that the cuisine of Arizona, which I looked for on a number of sites, looked extremely similar to the cuisine of New Mexico. This is fine – a lot of Latin influences and classic Mexican dishes. I would happily dine on Mexican food every week, except we literally just had this a week ago, and repeating the same celebration for subsequent weekly state visits doesn’t feel right.

So we had some Arizona Iced Tea, once famous for not raising their price of 99 cents per can for years, now famous for having raised their price up to $1.29. Also, as I stated on National Iced Tea Day, I highly prefer actual brewed tea poured over ice to the sugary concoction that passes for iced tea around here. Arizona is no exception. This is why I tried the fruit punch variety instead. It was okay. Not the celebration we’d hoped for. Then, at my mother’s suggestion I added a splash of vodka to it, rendering it exponentially more drinkable.

But that’s okay. There was lots to explore about Arizona, and plenty I didn’t know. Arizona contains some curious contradictions. It’s known as a desert state, but it also features numerous ski resorts. It contains a vast number of indigenous Americans, with about a quarter of the state put aside for reservations, including land for the Navajo. Yet when the federal government gave all American Indians the right to vote in 1924, Arizona denied it to its Indian peoples on reservations. It took the Supreme Court to overturn this injustice in 1948. In 2006 Arizona was the first state to reject a proposition to make same-sex marriage illegal. Great, right? Except two years later they did ban same-sex marriage and even amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. What the hell, Arizona?

Let’s have a look at some of the great folks to come out of Arizona, lest we acquire a politically jaded view of the state. We’ve got the lovely and talented Aidy Bryant from Phoenix, Linda Rondstadt from Tuscon (as we all know from her verse in Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies”), Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter from Tuscon, Stevie Nicks from Phoenix, Barbara Eden from Tuscon, Charles Mingus from Nogales, Emma Stone from Scottsdale, and of course the character John Rambo, who hails from Bowie.

While the tea was a bit of a bust, we are still fascinated by Arizona and hope to head there someday. If only to figure out its contradictory tendencies.

National Selfie Day

Do selfies really need a day? I mean, open up any social media platform and there they are, scattered all over the place. People seem to love taking pictures of themselves, often with some weird duckbill mouth expression and a two-finger peace sign. They do this in bathrooms, in gyms, in front of their fridges, and even in stupid places, like Holocaust memorials. And what’s worse, some people have made money with this. They have become sponsored influencers, sprinkling their selfies with product placement and just the right “look”.

I don’t hate the selfie. We all have cameras at the ready at all times of day, and I think this increased ability to document our lives is terrific for keeping memories alive – something I worry about as I get older and my mind threatens to dissolve faster than old Alka-Seltzer. Jodie and I have taken selfies many times when we’ve been out on dates. It makes more sense than asking a stranger to take the pic or potentially run away with our phone.

But I wince a little at creating a day to celebrate the selfie. It’s like having a holiday to celebrate food pics. We know they’re there. We contribute many of them to the universe, much to the delight of pretty much no one.

But here we are, and we can’t let a celebration this simple pass us by. For a twist on the selfie, we decided to contribute a couple of entries from the sub-genre, the pet-selfie. We’ve been told many times that people enjoy looking at our dogs more than looking at us, and we honestly can’t blame them.

National Turkey Lovers Day / Turkey Lovers Month

The turkey breeders in America released this day unto the world back in 2016. To be specific, this was done by the National Turkey Federation. And I’m glad they opted for the more majestic and Starfleet-sounding ‘Federation’ instead of ‘Association’. It lends a certain badassery to the turkey that I feel was lacking.

Turkey on its own fails to inspire either of our taste buds to do an anticipatory dance. It’s a fine poultry, but not nearly as versatile as chicken or flavourful as duck. We’ve over-eaten the stuff at holidays since we were old enough to chew, and it’s almost always done the same way: roasted. Sometimes with stuffing crammed into its nether parts, but it’s still just roasted meat. Turkey is notable to us only if it’s appearing alongside other ingredients in a club sandwich, if we’re snagging a piece of crispy skin at Thanksgiving, or in the form of the turkey burger.

That was how we celebrated this day. Jodie thoughtfully mixed up a batch of delicious turkey burgers which I threw on the barbecue. These were washed down by Arizona iced tea and followed up with peaches ‘n cream, so it was quite a strangely-balanced meal of mirth.

In a sense we also indulged in some roundabout Arizona cuisine. Arizonians are fond of Mexican food, and turkeys were first domesticated and turned into foodstuffs in ancient Mexico. William Strickland was the navigator who brought the bird back to England in 1550 and introduced it to the regional cuisine. They got their anglicized name likely because they believed the birds to have originated in the Ottoman Empire – so if you were wondering, the name for the country came before the name for the bird.

We may not be turkey ‘lovers’, but we are turkey ‘likers’, and that qualified us to participate in this celebration. Close enough.

World Day of Music

Fête de la Musique was a creation of Jack Lang and Maurice Fleuret, both part of the Ministry of Culture in France in 1982. It was seen as a way to get people out of their homes and onto the streets, playing music for others. In the decades since the celebration has been adopted by more than 700 cities in 120 countries. There are free concerts, and encouragement for buskers to show off their skills.

The one catch – at least in France, and that’s kind of what matters since this day originated there – is that the performances have to be free. Money should not be a barrier to experiencing music. This is art of the people, for the people.

Had there been any free concerts yesterday in town, we would have attended. But alas, we’re back in COVID country here, and we had to improvise. The take we opted for was to have music playing all day, into the evening, from the moment we woke up. We missed the first chunk of the day, as we had phone calls from kids and a deep desire not to arise from bed until well after noon, but the rest of the day was awash in quality tuneage.

We celebrate music every day here, whether it makes the official roster of parties or not. As I’ve mentioned before, I recorded the birthdays of hundreds of albums in my initial research for this project, believing I’d somehow have time to weave all that in to what we’re doing. I haven’t, but I have been picking out those albums and playing through them quite often, giving us a chance to appreciate them as the pieces of art they were intended to be, beginning to end.

However you may or may not have celebrated this one yesterday, it’s a good thing to include into your everyday lives. Don’t just drop some tunes on in the background; shut up and listen. Your life will be richer for it.

International Yoga Day

It may surprise you that this is actually a United Nations celebration. Or, if you’ve been paying attention to the wide swath of celebrations this year which have the UN as their origin story, it may not surprise you at all. And it shouldn’t; the UN is simply recognizing that yoga is a powerful force for self-improvement, working on a mental, physical and spiritual level.

Yoga began to find its current form sometime around the 5th or 6th century BC, but it’s believed it has been practiced in some sense for around 5,000 years. Over in this part of the world, far from India where yoga came to be, yoga was seen as a physical posture and relaxation type of exercise for a number of years. It was yankee-fied, in a sense. Its origins are far more spiritual however, and you’ll find that a lot of modern yoga teachers have incorporated spiritual elements and awareness to their techniques.

The UN offered up a virtual event to honour this day, but for some reason they broadcast it on June 19, two days early. That was an odd choice. This would have been a great opportunity to broadcast a free world-wide yoga class. Somehow the notion of potentially thousands or more doing yoga at the same time sounds like it has to be good for the universal energy, right?

Jodie took part in this one. She loves yoga, and has been crushed that she hasn’t been able to attend a class in more than three months – four really, as she was quite ill for a spell before the lockdown began. But she found an online source for some quality yoga, and she’s familiar enough with the positions to pull it off on her own. My chronically sore arms prevent me from doing a lot of the yoga poses so I was happy just to watch. It was particularly entertaining when our dogs decided to help out.

National Indigenous Peoples Day / National Indigenous Peoples Month

The government of Canada created this day for all of us to pay tribute to our indigenous citizens: the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who were here before any of us crackers set foot upon what we now call Canadian soil. And this year, while the country down south erupts in flames and furor, it’s more important than ever to look at our relationship with the first inhabitants of this land.

In short, it hasn’t been good. America has more of a reputation of slaughtering their indigenous neighbours, and while Canada certainly butchered its share, in a way what we did was more sinister. Reservations were created in both countries. But there was a grotesquely massive effort made here to “fix” the indigenous people by Europeanizing them. Our American friends had nothing that quite compared with the Canadian residential school – young indigenous kids were grabbed mercilessly from their families and brought to these schools where they were trained how to… well, how to be white. How to dress white, talk white, and believe in the God that the white folks subscribed to. These kids were raised in an environment that made American reform schools look like vacation resorts – there was no love, no guidance, no affection. Then they were shot back out into the world, giving birth to children and not knowing how to raise them with compassion and love. They had nothing to model.

It’s a horror story, and it came to an end in the 1990s. The goddamn 1990s. The last victims of residential schools would be younger than me. Then we’ve got the 60s Scoop, which actually occurred well into the 80s. This was the process of once again yanking kids from their indigenous families and plopping them into foster care or adoption. Some kids didn’t make it to another home in Canada – they were whisked away to America or Europe. These are horrific acts that happened way past the North American genocides. They even occurred after we’d become familiar with the American Indian crying in that commercial about pollution.

So yesterday was a day to reflect upon that, and what’s more, to look at the systemic racism that’s plaguing black people in America and how that is reflected in the way our indigenous people are treated up here. You’ve got the same over-incarceration, the same chronic poverty, violence and substance abuse cycles. We’ve also got something called ‘starlight tours’, which is when police will haul indigenous people to the outskirts of a city, possibly beat them, or maybe just dump them by the side of the road and let them find their own way home. That happens in the dead of winter. And it happens here. In my city.

Shit needs to change, and we are hopeful the world is in an ideal place to bring about that change right now. All lives will matter when black lives matter, and up here when indigenous lives matter. We’ve come a long way, but we ain’t there yet.

World Giraffe Day

And on a happier note, let’s give a little love to one of the goofiest looking creatures on the planet. According to the day’s official site, there are only 111,000 giraffes still roaming the planet. There are no webinars or special events – the conservation people simply need funds to keep protecting these beasts. We encourage you to donate if you can.

Giraffes are the tallest land-dwelling creatures we’ve got. They cluster together in groups of related females or swinging bachelors, and the males establish who’s got the biggest swinging dick in the herd by flinging their necks at one another in one of the most bizarre displays of nature I’ve ever seen. So what can we learn about these quirky giants?

They see in colour, and because of the placement of their eyes they have a 360-degree view around them. They also have sharpened senses of smell and hearing, which is good – you’ll need some defenses on your side if you’ve got a weirdly high center of gravity. The giraffe’s tongue is about 18 inches long, so I’d avoid kissing one if it comes up. Giraffes have two speeds: walking or galloping. Their gallop can take them up to 60km/h, so they’d be fine to ride around city streets without getting a ticket, but they won’t handle freeway speeds. It doesn’t matter – don’t do this. Don’t buy a giraffe to ride. It’s a bad idea.

Giraffes are polygamous, which is probably good for keeping the species going. This is important, as it takes between 400 and 460 days for a baby to drop, and when they do, it’s almost always just a single baby. Luckily, giraffes can live up to 38 years, so there’s lots of time for copulation and such. Of course, humans have done their part to kill off giraffes, but giraffes have actually been strangely helpful to us. NASA scientists studied giraffe skin for uniforms for astronauts and fighter pilots, as they sought to find a way to keep the blood from rushing to their heroes’ legs during flight.

There’s a lot to learn from giraffes, and it’s really never boring to just watch them out there, giraffing. If you’re feeling particularly generous and want to help out some long-necked weirdos, toss some money toward the conservation efforts. This world would be a lot more dull without these lanky goofs.

After a couple of manic, far-too-busy days, we can cool down with a relatively doable Monday:

  • National Chocolate Eclair Day. Well that’s just awesome.
  • National Onion Rings Day. It just gets better and better. We’ll be careful to not enjoy these two treats simultaneously.
  • National Kissing Day. I like this day. This is a pretty cool day.
  • Stupid Guy Thing Day. No idea what to do for this. Shotgun a beer? Wear socks and sandals? Blow something up?

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